The military is “in a far more serious readiness crisis than I had understood or that most people understand,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters Thursday, stressing the need for increased defense funding. Twice in the past few weeks, Thornberry said, he has heard that the “force is beginning to fracture” like it did in the late 1970s. “I looked in the face of pilots who are getting less than half the number of training hours that they are supposed to get in order to stay proficient in their airplanes,” he said. “There is more stress on the force, I think, than most of us have recognized.” Thornberry said his committee will mark up the National Defense Authorization Act to meet base requirements at $574 billion, and with a topline of $610 billion, in hopes that they can get the bill passed and signed into law. The base budget portion is about $18 billion more than what the president requested, Thornberry said, but that extra money would pay for “better end strength, a full pay raise, money for the depots, more money for training, money for facilities.” To put that extra funding in the base but stay at the topline level mandated by the bipartisan budget agreement, lawmakers took money from the Overseas Contingency Operations account, meaning that money will only last until April—when a new president will be in place. The budget is still not enough, but it “helps turn the corner for these readiness problems,” Thornberry said.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.